“Today’s fast-evolving information and communication technology (ICT) represents a tremendous opportunity for rural populations to improve productivity, to enhance food and nutrition security, to access markets, and to find employment opportunities in a revitalised sector” (Word Bank 2017”).
Information and communications technologies (ICT) are game changers for sustainable development. ICT for agriculture (ICT4Ag) can help transform poor agricultural practices, yields and revenues in developing countries into farming that improves the livelihoods of farmers.
To share insights into the success factors of ICT4Ag solutions, GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH) compiled a wide range of examples from 29 projects in 34 countries in Africa and Asia in its study “Harnessing the chances of digitalisation for rural development - Lessons-learnt in German-funded rural development projects”.
The study is a practical guideline for projects and planning officers how to plan and implement sustainable ICT4Ag solutions and consider important aspects such as equal access to ICT for women and young people and sharing lessons with other users.
In Tunisia, GIZ successfully set up a public private partnership involving the German start-up Peat. Peat developed the Smartphone App Plantix to identify plant diseases and provide recommendations for farmers.
The App was adapted to the Tunisian context (language, user-face) and the needs of young female farmers. The GIZ project works with 10,000 farmers and trained 50 females as “Women Plant Doctors”. The Plant Doctors live in rural farming communities and make the application available for those who do not have access to smartphones.
One of the lessons learnt from the development of this ICT solution was that user-centred design is key to success. An in-depth evaluation of the target group’s needs and constraints – in this case the level of access to mobile phones/internet, (e-) skills and (digital) literacy of women farmers in the pilot region – should be made before starting to develop the ICT4Ag solution.
A user-centred design significantly increases the acceptance of the new technology in the target group. When it comes to scaling up the solution, developers in the project successfully use “intermediaries” – in this case, digitally literate young male and female members of farmer groups.
Another example comes from India. Here, GIZ joined forces with India’s Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, which implements the Climate Change Knowledge Network in Indian Agriculture (CCKN-IA). CCKN uses the ICT platform “Network for Information on Climate (Ex) Change” (NICE+). The platform facilitates the inclusion of farmers’ feedback in the development of agricultural strategies and the national partner, India’s National Institute of Agricultural Extension Management, co-ordinates interventions. Through NICE+, the Indian government also provides free-of-charge advice for the farmers. In an independent assessment, 85 per cent of the farmers reported benefiting from NICE+ through increased yields and 74 per cent from reduced production costs.
In this project, lessons learnt comprise that it can be a success factor to integrate a new ICT solution into a mainstream public institution, if the service is considered as public goods by the government. Also, ICT costs often end up higher than calculated in the beginning. In addition to development costs, the budget should include transaction costs, (e-) skills trainings for the target group as well as for partners and, in remote areas, the improvement of Internet access and electricity.
As the survey also shows, ICT4Ag is still facing challenges. One of them is the protection of personal data. While using ICT4Ag, projects will probably collect personal data (including sex, age, income, and health status) from the target group. Local stakeholders are mostly unaware of data privacy issues and are hence vulnerable. Therefore, data protection is an issue that should be considered from the outset of an intervention.
Julia Bayer, Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit – GIZ
Sectoral Project: Rural Development, Bonn, Germany
For more information:
PEAT – Plantix